Every artist must find his or her medium. For some, it's oils, watercolor or sculpture. For this one, whose work is being featured at three exhibitions, it's hair.
By MARY JANE PARK, Times Staff Writer
Published June 26, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - Babs Reingold is aware that people can find her art repulsive.
For years, she has collected human hair, much of it from professional salons. She also gleans her own.
Let her tell you about that: "After saving my hair for years and wadding it into jars by year, I decided in 2005 to precisely record my daily loss of hair. Each day, I collected it from the shower, my brush and any other place I noticed it. Each day, I manipulated the hair into a doodle, which was then placed in a Ziploc bag and dated."
Reingold wrote that for the summer exhibitions catalog at the Arts Center, where her installation, "Fallout: Beauty Lost and Found," is on display through July 8.
Some of the tendrils hang in tiny transparent bags below drawings that replicate the constructions. Others are part of larger, framed assemblages.
"It's creepy and it's beautiful, all in one," she said.
As a child, Reingold said, she had "massive, big curly hair." She's 51 now. "I guess I'm middle-aged, but I don't feel that way." Nonetheless, she said, the work at the Arts Center is an expression of loss, of fading youth, sexuality and beauty.
It was inspired after she noticed her hair falling out in increasing amounts. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the medication for which caused her to shed even more.
Her work apparently is evocative: Reingold said numerous women told her so when the Arts Center exhibition opened. Her work also appears in two other shows: "Labyrinth: Current Millennium," at the Studio@620 through July 15; and "underCURRENT/overVIEW 8" at the Tampa Museum of Art through July 9. It also appeared in "Unrestricted," the Florida Craftsmen exhibition that ended Thursday.
Some of the pieces resemble human skin. Reingold uses tea and rust to stain metal and fabric. In one installation at Studio@620 dyed silk organza bags in different weaves hold varying amounts of hair, some of which sifts out onto the gallery floor. Lighted, the contents can be opaque or translucent; the occasional single strand of hair resembles incandescent filament. Tufts look like barbershop debris.
The sacks, which are constructed in differing lengths and weights, some turned inside out with seams and loose thread exposed, some with multiple layers, some contained within other pouches, "are keeping all these things inside."
The lights in the installation reveal portions of it, "but you can't see it all at once." The multimedia presentation sometimes includes whispered secrets that play in a sound recording.
Of a long, undulate silk tube filled with hair and textured with waxy encaustic, Reingold said: "I call these my entrails."
Bob Devin Jones, an artist director at 620, said Reingold's is the first site installation in the space on First Avenue S.
Once the work was in place, he said, "I was struck by its power and its elusive beauty, because it doesn't reveal all its secrets immediately. There's a spiritual power to the piece."
In writing about her work, Reingold acknowledges the yin and yang, the push and pull, the loveliness and vulgarity of the media in which she works.
Exhibitions, Jones said, are "not just for exploration of the art, but how's it working for the exploration of the artist?"
The work is deliberately provocative, Reingold said. She lives part of the year near New York and is fascinated by appearances.
"We see things in glimpses," she said. "We can't see things in their totality."